VIDEO: Tester challenges U.S. trade official, blasts tariffs in Senate floor speech

Speaking on the Senate floor, Montana Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday blasted recent U.S. tariffs as harmful and detrimental to Montana producers.

While there, he also confronted a top U.S. trade official for characterizing the economic uncertainty of a trade war as little more than a “rounding error.”

Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, said in a media call this week that tariff’s are forcing Montana’s growers to make difficult choices and could, if not addressed, put some out of business.

He continued that thread in Washington.

“Producers across my state consistently tell me that the uncertainty from these trade policies is absolutely hurting their pocketbooks and keeping them up at night,” Tester wrote in a letter to White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro. “Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with uncertainty every day. They don’t need the government making it worse.”

Tester questioned the Trump administration’s long-term plan after it announced $12 billion in emergency payments to producers. Tester said farmers want to work for their paycheck and earn it fairly, not milk the free market with what amounts to a bailout.

“That is not why they got into this business,” Tester said. “These dollars are being used as a Band-Aid to clog the bleeding that is felt by American farmers and ranchers as a direct result of Washington’s trade policies.”

While speaking on the Senate floor, Tester also directed his focus on Navarro, who recently called the financial impacts of tariffs a “rounding error.”

Tester said Navarro’s comments conflict with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which reported that tariffs on agriculture products will threaten $20 million in Montana exports and negatively affect 140,000 jobs.

“Your statement is inaccurate, insulting and dismissive of rural America, and it underscores Washington’s persistent misunderstanding of its people,” Tester said. “If Mr. Navarro truly believes his comments to be true, he has a lot more to learn about what is going on across the country.

“I’m willing to bet hasn’t been to a farm, a ranch, a stockyard, or a grain elevator recently. I’m quite sure he hasn’t picked rock in northcentral Montana.”